Thursday, October 28, 2004

Tutorial Vouchers

Tutorial Vouchers

I really like the idea of a voucher based funded school system. I think that long term it offers the best chance of providing high quality education to an increasingly diverse population.

However, transitioning from the current governmental management to private management is a major hurdle. Voucher schools must be able to offer all the same opportunities as the currently established schools immediately even though they are new and untried institutions. This vastly increases the upfront cost and risk of financing such schools.

We need a transitional form of voucher schools that can function as an auxiliary to government schools while they build themselves up into to full fledged institutions.

The Japanese have an extensive system of private after hour tutoring schools called juku (for younger students) and yobiko (for high school students). These tutoring schools, often called "Cram Schools" in English, exist to prepare students for Japans rigorous entrance exams for high school and college.

Perhaps we could create a similar system here using vouchers to provide extra instruction after hours. We could start by targeting at-risk students in poor schools and then expand. Such a program would direct resources to motivated students who could really benefit from additional instruction. It could provide another source of income to teachers. The tutoring schools could start out small, perhaps with just one student and could use private homes, churches, public meeting places or after hour school buildings. If successful the tutoring schools could evolve overtime into full fledge standalone educational institutions.

Politically, tutor schools would be an easier sell. It would be easier to convince parents, teachers and education unions to support a minor change to the system which would cause more money to flow to student's education than a major structural change in the entire system.